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Celibacy vs. Abstinence: Real Differences that Split Them Apart

If you’re having regular sex, you don’t care about these words. But if you’re not having sex, we need to look at celibacy vs. abstinence.

Celibacy vs. Abstinence

You may be laughing and rolling your eyes at the people who aren’t having sex, but at one point, you weren’t having sex either. I mean, until I lost my virginity, I was celibate – obviously and mostly by choice. And since I’ve become sexually active, there have been periods where I haven’t had sex. Is that abnormal? Not at all.

Your 101 guide to celibacy vs. abstinence

Though you should know, there is a difference between celibacy vs. abstinence. Okay, nowadays, they’re being intermingled and their definitions are becoming blurry, but they’re not the same thing. So, if you’re wondering where you’re at, let’s get down to business and get you understanding everything there is to know about celibacy vs. abstinence.

#1 What is celibacy? Celibacy is the term used to refer to someone who is not having sex, usually due to religious vows or chastity. People who are celibate are typically unmarried, so this is where the religious views tie in. People can come out of celibacy, and in most cases, do when they become married. [Read: Identifying with gray asexuality in a world of sex]

#2 So, then what’s abstinence? Sexual abstinence is when someone voluntarily abstains from having any form of sexual intercourse. Usually, that includes other sexual acts, but not necessarily. If someone is abstinent, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s due to religious reasons.

For example, someone who wants to find a stable relationship could become abstinent while waiting to find someone special. That doesn’t mean they’re going to wait until marriage to have sex, they’re just taking a break.

#3 If you’re celibate, you can still be sexually aroused. Just because you’re not having sex, doesn’t mean you cannot become sexually aroused. However, if you’re asexual, this means that you don’t experience sexual attraction, however, people who are asexual can still have sex.

Asexual people may be in relationships and have sex to satisfy their partner, or they may be in denial of being asexual. [Read: Asexual people and what it’s like for them in the dating world]

#4 You don’t need a reason to be celibate or abstinent. Because it’s not as popular of a lifestyle choice, people are curious. They want to know why you’re not having sex. But listen, do you have to have a reason? You can just choose not have sex. If you want to take a break, take a break. If you want to wait until you’re married, then wait. You don’t need an excuse to live your life the way you want it.

#5 There are no medical side effects from being celibate or abstinent. If you’re celibate or abstinent, your dick is not going to fall off. The phrase, “if you don’t use it, you lose it” doesn’t apply to this. There’s actually no medical side effects from not having sex. You can still masturbate, and if you choose not to masturbate, you’ll live. You’re going to probably develop superhuman discipline, but that’s about it.

#6 It’s 100% STI proof. I mean, you probably know this, but by not having sex, there is a legitimate 100% guarantee you won’t contract an STI or become pregnant. Shocking, right? [Read: Pulling out is completely safe and other terrible sex advice]

#7 Can you become celibate/abstinent after having sex? You can stop having sex whenever you want. Listen, in the beginning, it’s not going to be easy. You’ll probably have urges and thoughts, but after a while, they seem to slowly go away.

You kind of forget what sex felt like. I’m talking like I’m practicing celibacy, I’m not, but there have been long stretches where I wasn’t having sex. And at some point, it just isn’t on your mind as it once was.

#8 Can you use abstinence for self-development? Absolutely. In fact, I’ve tried it. I spent so much time focusing my attention on guys, and I wasn’t finding what I wanted. Guys would play games with me, and I found myself getting distracted and taken off course of what I should have been focusing on: myself.

So, I decided to not have sex for a period of time just to focus on me for a change. It was hard, but I found myself having more time to do things I wanted to do with people I actually care about. [Read: How to focus on yourself and create your own sunshine]

#9 Abstinence doesn’t determine sexual preference. Many people assume if a male is practicing abstinence, then he’s gay. He could be, he could also be straight or bisexual. Just because you don’t want to have sex, doesn’t mean you’re gay, straight, or bisexual. It doesn’t mean anything. It just means you don’t want to have sex… that’s it.

#10 You can use the differences between abstinence vs. celibacy to connect with people differently. Just because you’re not having sex, doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing love. You can try abstinence and learn the different ways to connect with someone. People assume that the best way to connect with a person is through sex. But it’s not. It’s one way to connect, but there are so many other ways that we just haven’t looked at.

[Read: 14 ways to connect with someone and feel a lot closer]

Now that you know the differences between celibacy vs. abstinence, hopefully you have a better understanding of yourself and the people around you. It’s not weird, in fact, it’s perfectly normal.

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Natasha Ivanovic
Natasha Ivanovic is an intimacy, dating, and relationship writer best known for her writings on Kiiroo, LovePanky, Post Pravda, and more. She's the creator and ...
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